This appeared in the Downsmail this week:
Already this has been the toughest year of most of our lives. Covid has changed the lives of almost everyone. Alongside the deaths, isolation and unemployment there were some positives such as the freshness of the air and resurgence of Nature. Some of us hoped for a recovery from lockdown that could bring a positive ‘new normal’. A recovery that, for example, eliminated the appalling air pollution in Upper Stone Street which is currently the 12th most polluted street in the country.
Many of us felt this could be an opportunity for change and most of us didn’t want to return to business as usual. For example, the ability to work from home negating the need to travel has been revolutionary for some. But wider than that was the realisation of what is essential in life.
Essential workers, NHS staff, supermarket staff, bin men, farm workers, delivery drivers and many many others, have shown their worth, worth that most have never seen in their pay packets. Essential supplies, care and support for those who were shielding. Essential services for the rest.
There was, and still is, a real opportunity to make momentous changes but it requires political will and trust in the country’s leaders.
Firstly, a change of priority. A need to properly recognise and invest in the jobs that are essential. No longer should these be low paid jobs, they should be at the heart of our future.
Secondly, support for those who need to find new work, those staying at home to keep safe and those starting in new careers. A universal basic income is being provided in other countries and gives a level of security that would see us all through these difficult times and into the future.
Thirdly, properly tackling the underlying problems that have exacerbated covid such as air pollution, poor housing, inequalities and excess consumption.
Finally, building strong communities and connecting with the world around us. Communities started to come together during covid, we looked out for our neighbours and people across Maidstone clapped key workers loudly and proudly.
There is still time for change. Stay safe everyone.